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OK, so Yngwie Malmsteen does have an enormous ego on a par with his hero Ritchie Blackmore, and he can't write a decent song to save his life if it involves vocals. But damned if this album still holds up as one of the greatest, if not the greatest instrumental metal guitar album ever released. How can you not respect a man who pioneered a whole new style of guitar playing on a par with Edward Van Halen and the late great Randy Rhoads in terms of influentiality and sheer recognizability? This album, as I said, is still a great example of what a great instrumental guitar album should sound like.
"Black Star": That haunting classical guitar intro leads right into the drum fill, then the familiar throbbing mantra of a bassline starts up over rock soild drumming. From its soft entrance to the swelling harmonies that kick in to herald the beginning of the song proper, the guitar on this opener owns. His sweet, throaty tone commands your attention and the melodies are arresting. Definitely one of the most emotional songs on this album, and a great start.
"Far Beyond The Sun": The first real "arpeggios from hell" tune, and it delivers! Full on shred from start to finish, and this song features the first of Jens Johannsson's terrifying keyboard solos that, unlike most keyboard wankers, actually make musical sense and have character as well as staggering chops. His blistering solo exchanges with Yngwie in the middle of the tune show he can hang in the face of Malmsteen's technical fusillade with the best of them.
"Now Your Ships Are Burned": OK, truly goofy lyrics here, but to be fair, Jeff Scott Soto delivers them with conviction in a strong, distinctive voice. And it is redeemed by some of Yngwie's fastest, most fluid shredding on the album to make up for the lyrics being so awful. And the riffing is dynamic and complex, spitting out notes with riveting intensity.
"Evil Eye": Another quiet intro goes straight into one of the best and heaviest riffs on the album, and some of his most unhinged soloing yet. A really nice acoustic middle bit ushers in some more frenzied keyboard/guitar solo exchanges, and it's into a passionate fadeout that seems to say they went on for some time after the fade in the studio.
"Icarus' Dream Suite, Opus 1": Pretentious title, but a nice tune that develops from a quiet and subdued beginning into a moody tone poem that starts off Side 2 of my vinyl version perfectly.
"As Above, So Below": Another vocal tune with, again, goofy lyrics yet strong vocals that make up for that, with Soto hitting some really intense high notes near the end. Quite possibly the best soloing on the album, here, and Yngwie makes the best of his time in the spotlight. Even though the guitar still dominates with arresting harmonies in the beginning and a tricky unison passage with keys and guitar that beings in the solo, and what a solo it is!
"Little Savage": A syncopated speed metal tune of sorts with a neat riff that interweaves with the guitar melody in the verse very smoothly. The drumming is really good on this tune, and the slow middle part with the harpsichord is beautiful! Fades out with wild leads and double kick drummign driving the song to a higher level of intensity just...as...it...ENDS! Arrrgggg...
"Farewell": Too short to be a proper song, but still a sweet ending along the lines of "Black Star" on unaccompanied acoustic guitar.
This album, had I been a guitarist, would have owned my life and made me spend hours in my room trying to cop licks! It still holds up and deserves its rightful accolades as one of the all time great metal guitar albums. You know it, I know it.